Gremlins – music by Jerry Goldsmith

GremlinsHorror and comedy are two film genres that many have tried to mix, but few have managed to meld successfully. Part of the problem is that horror films tend to fall into one of two categories: so overbaked as to be almost unintentionally funny, or so repulsive as to strip even the slightest opportunity for humor out of the proceedings. If you try to add “widespread popular appeal” to the mix, you’re begging for trouble, because that all but violates the Prime Directive of making a horror flick. One of the very few movies to have landed right in the middle of that improbable Venn diagram was 1984’s Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg. Gremlins manages to be funny – and even endearingly sweet – and scary all at the same time. And as for popular appeal, the last time my son and I ventured through the toy aisle, we spotted freshly-minted, newly-produced Gremlins figures on the store shelves. Not bad for a movie that’s nearly 30 years old, even if I did have to explain that the movie that they’re from is too rich for his blood since he’s only 4 years old.

Helping to sweeten the movie’s cute moments and lend bite to the scarier scenes was an outstanding Jerry Goldsmith score. Always experimenting with unconventional instrumentation and electronics, Goldsmith was firmly into a phase of adding off-the-shelf synthesizers to the usual orchestral palette. Early samplers were also in play here, adding strange howling-cat noises and an almost-funny “Gremlin chorus” to numerous scenes where appropriate. Film Score Monthly’s 2-disc set corrects one of the longest-standing gaps in commercially-available film music by presenting the full score, alongside the remastered-for-CD “mini-album” released in 1984 which was previously the only way to hear any of the movie’s score. (As it turns out, even the barely-adequate mini-album has its charms, of which more in a moment.)

Goldsmith’s music for Gizmo, the adorable Mogwai who was the movie’s most marketable image, reinforces the adorable part,

Of course, once Gizmo’s kids have their fateful post-midnight snack, Goldsmith gets into more, well, Goldsmithian material. The first strains of the “Gremlins Rag” – heard in full in the movie’s end Gremlinscredits – are heard in an off-kilter, almost toy-piano style as Billy’s mother gets her first look at the grotesquely mutated pods. Once these hatch, all hell breaks loose and Goldsmith upends his entire toybox on us, frequently using the unearthly cat-howl sample mentioned earlier. That occurs through several vignettes early in the Gremlins’ spree of mischief, but once that becomes an all-out reign of terror that threatens to raze the entire town to the ground, the music officially goes balls-to-the-wall. “Too Many Gremlins” would be an epic orchestral music cue for any horror movie, but it helps to sell the Gremlins as a serious threat here (don’t forget, the movie was made in 1984, and its effects were limited to the state of the art of puppetry and animatronics in 1984 – the music had a lot of work to do in making the Gremlins a credible hazard). (That being said, I’m glad that Gremlins has been neither remade nor – shudder – CGI “enhanced” in the years since it was made.)

The second disc will either be a jolt of harmless ’80s nostalgia, or a collection-completer. It’s hard to trawl through theLogBook.com’s music reviews without picking up on me being a Peter Gabriel fan, and the inclusion of “Out Out” may just be that song’s first official appearance on CD, and it’s a notoriously hard-to-find piece from Gabriel’s early career, not having appeared on any of his albums to date, right in the middle of the four-year gap between Security and So. For that alone, this is one “contractually obligated re-release of the original album” (a bugbear of these classic soundtrack remasters) I’ll let them skate by with.

4 out of 4It’s amazing that so much of one of Jerry Goldsmith’s most memorable scores had to wait this long for an official release, but the sound quality and the abundance of previously unreleased material make Gremlins worth the wait.

Order this CD

    Disc One: The Film Score

  1. Fanfare in C / The Shop / The Little One (4:30)
  2. Late for Work (1:46)
  3. Mrs. Deagle / That Dog (2:22)
  4. The Gift (1:45)
  5. First Aid (2:17)
  6. Spilt Water (3:02)
  7. A New One (1:10)
  8. The Lab / Old Times (2:35)
  9. The Injection (2:56)
  10. Snack Time / The Wrong Time (1:49)
  11. The Box (1:24)
  12. First Aid (1:39)
  13. Disconnected / Hurry Home (1:03)
  14. Kitchen Fight (4:06)
  15. Dirty Linen (0:43)
  16. The Pool (1:07)
  17. The Plow / Special Delivery (1:16)
  18. High Flyer (2:22)
  19. Too Many Gremlins (2:06)
  20. No Santa Claus (3:27)
  21. After Theatre (1:39)
  22. Theatre Escape / Stripe Is Loose / Toy Dept. / No Gizmo (4:36)
  23. The Fountain / Stripe’s Death (5:42)
  24. Goodbye, Billy (2:56)
  25. End Title / The Gremlin Rag (4:10)

    Bonus Tracks

  26. Blues (2:17)
  27. Mrs. Deagle film version (1:27)
  28. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (1:12)
  29. After Theatre (With “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  30. After Theatre (Without “Silent Night”) (1:36)
  31. Rabbit Rampage composed by Milt Franklyn (0:47)
  32. The Gremlin Rag full version (3:35)
  33. Gizmo’s New Song (0:35)
  34. Gizmo’s Trumpet (0:30)
    Disc Two: 1984 Soundtrack Album

  1. Gremlins…Mega Madness performed by Michael Sembello (3:52)
  2. Make It Shine performed by Quarterflash (4:11)
  3. Out Out performed by Peter Gabriel (7:02)
  4. The Gift (4:58)
  5. Gizmo (4:14)
  6. Mrs. Deagle (2:54)
  7. The Gremlin Rag (4:13)

Released by: Film Score Monthly / Retrograde Records
Release date: 2011
Disc one total running time: 76:01
Disc two total running time: 31:25

Cloak & Dagger – music by Brian May

Cloak & Dagger - music by Brian MayThe early ’80s saw a spate of video-game-oriented films, trying to cash in on the public’s seemingly unstoppable infatuation with that new entertainment medium. Cloak & Dagger, starring Henry Thomas (still a fixture in the public eye thanks to his then-recent appearance in E.T.) and Dabney Coleman (the king of early ’80s video game / computer flicks, having already appeared in WarGames, was easily the most kid-oriented of the first wave of video game movies.

For some reason, my memory had cheated a little bit in recalling this movie’s music. I hadn’t actually seen Cloak & Dagger since just a few years after its release, and for some reason I had it in my head that the soundtrack was somewhat similar to the music from WarGames, which was constantly on-edge and, thanks to some synth work, hip to the audience’s expectations from a movie featuring computers as a key plot point. In fact, Cloak & Dagger – getting its first soundtrack release thanks to Intrada – is nothing like that. For a supposedly tech-oriented movie, it’s startling just how old-school the soundtrack is.

Scored by the late Australian composer Brian May (not Queen’s lead guitarist, who’s still alive and dividing his time between astronomy and being the world’s best axe man), Cloak & Dagger‘s old-fashioned, strictly-orchestral scoring is almost out of place: it skews a lot older than the rest of the movie. Even the way the music was arranged, and the way the recording sessions were miked and mixed, makes the music sound older than the 1980s – in a strange way, it sounds like a recording from the ’60s or early ’70s, and not like the music from a kiddie techno-thriller at all. It’s nice music, but just seems strangely unhip next to the images it accompanies.

The action sequences fare better than the more contemplative moments. Coleman’s swaggering hero Jack Flack gets a nice signature theme, which gets turned around into a nice reveal toward the end of the movie when Thomas’ character realizes that it’s not military superhero/action figure Jack Flack, but his father (also played by Coleman), who has come to his rescue.

Cloak & Dagger could probably have done with a punchier, “younger” soundtrack, and it’s a great example of how misremembered a piece of movie history can be. As always, Intrada packs the accompanying CD booklet with a wealth of information about the movie (including something I’d missed: the plot of Cloak & Dagger is so close to Hitchcock’s Rear Window that the writer of the short story upon which Rear Window was based actually gets a story credit for Cloak & 2 out of 4Dagger). Aside from a mostly-forgotten arcade game by Atari (whose attempt at a movie product placement for an upcoming Atari 5200 Cloak & Dagger game – represented here by footage of the arcade game – turned out to be a product placement for vaporware), this may be the only other merchandise Cloak & Dagger has ever inspired. It’s a decent soundtrack… for the wrong movie.

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  1. Jack Flack Arrives (0:59)
  2. The Tower Of Life (3:33)
  3. Help, Police!… Murder (4:13)
  4. Return From The Mission (5:32)
  5. I Guess We’re On Our Own (1:38)
  6. Davey Gets Away (1:20)
  7. Run, Davey, Run (3:34)
  8. Nightmare Drive (5:05)
  9. Parking Lot Chase (3:56)
  10. We Gotta Save Kim! (1:06)
  11. Back To The River (2:01)
  12. Run Like The Wind (1:55)
  13. The Cross Fire Gambit (4:42)
  14. I Don’t Wanna Play (1:10)
  15. The End Of Childhood (2:21)
  16. Airport Prelude (1:28)
  17. Davey A Hostage! (1:22)
  18. Captain Jack Flack (6:49)
  19. Cloak & Dagger (End Credits) (3:49)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 57:13

Krull

KrullAnnounced just prior to (and available at) the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, this long-overdue remastered (and, this time, officially-licensed and above-board) edition of the Krull soundtrack is practically custom-made for Comic Con – it’s such an obscure, cult-following niche item that only a Comic Con attendee or Krull‘s own mother could love it.

As hard as I ride the familiar horse that virtually everything James Horner composed in the 80s had the DNA of his score for Star Trek II in it, Krull at last pushes the familiar chords and progressions into a more fantastical, sword-and-sorcery realm. The movie itself was one of numerous cinematic attempts to marry SF and swashbuckling fantasy in the wake of Star Wars, though Krull made the mashup more literal than most, with more traditional feudal elements jostling for screen time with sci-fi concepts. Despite a merchandising blitz, it wound up with a cult audience and little more.

And up until La-La Land’s nicely cleaned-up 2010 two-disc soundtrack release, that cult audience had to make do with the (now insanely rare and expensive) pressing of the Krull score from the defunct Supertracks label. Supertracks was a ’90s outfit, also known for having turned out the only CD release of the music from the Paul McGann Doctor Who movie, that operated on a slightly shady basis: composers needed promotional copies of their work could get them pressed by Supertracks, but in exchange, they would quietly look the other way while Supertracks also sold copies of the same albums to soundtrack collectors. Though frequently sporting fine cover artwork and booklets, Supertracks’ releases were seldom, if ever, officially licensed. Supertracks suddenly disappeared early in the 2000s, and one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect the dots. Krull – and everything else produced by Supertracks – went out of print overnight and became collectors’ items.

La-La Land snatched up the rights to an official Krull soundtrack, fortuitously timed to both Comic Con and the DVD and Blu Ray release of Krull. The track list is largely the same as the Supertracks edition, but it sounds much better – the 4 out of 4difference in sonic quality is considerable. There’s also a specially-edited “Theme From Krull” suite assembled by the album producers from portions of the opening and credits.

Though this edition is also, as far as the label is concerned, sold out of its edition of 3000 copies, but let’s look on the sunny side: there are 3,000 fresh copies out there with better sound quality than the old release that was all but a bootleg. Krull‘s worth revisiting, and this time you just might be able to afford it.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Main Title And Colwyn’s Arrival (7:34)
  2. The Slayers Attack (9:18)
  3. Quest For The Glaive (7:23)
  4. Ride To The Waterfall (0:53)
  5. Lyssa In The Fortress (1:28)
  6. The Walk To The Seer’s Cave (4:10)
  7. The Seer’s Vision (2:18)
  8. The Battle In The Swamp (2:39)
  9. Quicksand (3:38)
  10. The Changeling (4:04)
  11. Leaving The Swamp (1:58)
    Disc Two

  1. Vella (3:46)
  2. The Widow’s Web (6:18)
  3. The Widow’s Lullaby (5:01)
  4. Ynyr’s Death (1:41)
  5. Ride Of The Firemares (5:22)
  6. Battle On The Parapets (2:53)
  7. Inside The Black Fortress (6:13)
  8. The Death Of The Beast And The Destruction Of The Black Fortress (8:31)
  9. Epilogue And End Title (4:52)
  10. Colwyn And Lyssa Love Theme (2:35)
  11. The Walk To The Seer’s Cave – album edit (2:16)
  12. Theme From Krull (4:48)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2010
Disc one total running time: 45:23
Disc two total running time: 54:16

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (Newly Expanded Edition) – music by James Horner

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (Newly Expanded Edition)Fresh from the spectacular success – in archival soundtrack release terms – of last year’s complete score from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Film Score Monthly (via its Retrograde Records imprint) did the “logical” thing and began work on a complete score release of the next movie in the classic Trek cycle, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Now, I’ve always been of the opinion that the Trek III score was less impressive than the music for Trek II by several orders of magnitude, but I began to wonder if perhaps that opinion was the product of poor choices made in the track selection and sequencing for the 45-or-so minute soundtrack release that’s been available all these years. Would the Trek III re-release, like that of its predecessor, reveal hidden depths that we’d been denied all these years?

The answer is a roughly equal mix of yes and no. As with Trek II, the original release of Trek III‘s soundtrack bizarrely omitted some of the movie’s most iconic moments. The destruction of the Enterprise (“A Fighting Chance To Live”) is a rather major event in Trek history, but the music accompanying that scene didn’t rate inclusion on the old soundtrack release. It’s a beautiful piece, Horner at his best, and at nearly five minutes, it’s not a piece that’s so short that you could blink and miss it (a frequent excuse for not including a prominent cue on a soundtracka album). Another scene that always struck me musically – accompanied by the track “Sunset On Genesis” – is also a long-lost treasure. It’s nice to have the film version (rather than an “album edit”) of “Stealing The Enterprise”, though the difference isn’t enormous.

Unlike some critics, I’ve always thought Horner’s unique take on a musical signature for the Klingons was appropriate, fitting nicely alongside the “Klingon Battle” piece from The Motion Picture, but even wilder. (In any case, Goldsmith’s Klingon music from the first movie was almost more of a theme for V’Ger, and didn’t gain its signature bombast – a la Horner – until 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.) It’s nice to hear Horner’s Klingon motif put through its paces (as in the track “Grissom Destroyed”).

Where things fall down is when the music slips into a single-high-note drone, mainly covering what could be called “Vulcan mysticism scenes”. They may have been appropriate for the film, but they’re extremely tedious as stand-alone listening. I would just skip these tracks and count off a few points, except that by the last third of the soundtrack, these tracks are so prevalent. Basically, after the Genesis planet is destroyed and Kirk & co. make off with their newly-acquired Klingon Bird of Pray, I tend to skip straight to the end. The first CD is rounded out by a selection of “source” music heard in the bar scenes as the Spock-possessed McCoy tries to wheel and deal for passage to the Genesis planet.

Due to contractual constraints involving the label that originally released the Trek III soundtrack LP, a second disc tags along with the first, replicating that LP in its entirety (although it’s been remastered, so it’s not a total loss). The second disc is essentially the same disc as what was released by GNP Crescendo in the early 1990s, and is the same as the original EMI LP released in 1984. The version of “Stealing The Enterprise” heard here differs slightly from the film version, but the real saving grace of the LP is the very dated, Meco-esque “Group 87” synth-disco cover of the theme music. Over-serious, dyed-in-the-wool soundtrack afficionados may hate it, but I’m glad to see it preserved here, even though it means a second CD that increased the price of the set.

3 out of 4Overall, the new Trek III soundtrack is a worthy upgrade, but that worthiness is sometimes a little harder to find than it was with the much more listenable complete score from Trek II. There are persistent rumors – which, interestingly, haven’t been denied outright – that Film Score Monthly isn’t done mining Paramount’s music vaults for Star Trek material this year, so hopefully more musical delights await us from the final frontier.

Order this CD

    Disc One

  1. Prologue and Main Title (6:32)
  2. Klingons (5:59)
  3. Spock’s Cabin (1:41)
  4. The Klingon’s Plan (1:03)
  5. The Mind-Meld (2:32)
  6. Stealing The Enterprise (8:41)
  7. Grissom Destroyed (1:04)
  8. Sunset On Genesis (2:18)
  9. Spock Endures Pon Farr (3:04)
  10. Bird Of Prey Decloaks (3:48)
  11. A Fighting Chance To Live (3:54)
  12. Genesis Destroyed (2:43)
  13. Returning To Vulcan (4:58)
  14. The Katra Ritual (4:31)
  15. End Titles (6:19)
  16. That Old Black Magic / Tangerine / I Remember You (10:32)
    Disc Two

  1. Prologue and Main Title (6:30)
  2. Klingons (5:58)
  3. Stealing The Enterprise (8:35)
  4. Discuss it!The Mind-Meld (2:32)
  5. Bird Of Prey Decloaks (3:48)
  6. Returning To Vulcan (4:56)
  7. The Katra Ritual (4:31)
  8. End Titles (6:20)
  9. The Search For Spock performed by Group 87 (3:43)

Released by: Film Score Monthly / Retrograde Records
Release date: 2010
Disc one total running time: 79:39
Disc two total running time: 46:53

WarGames – music by Arthur B. Rubenstein

I’ve always been a big fan of WarGames, so I was more than happy to hear that the imminent reissue of the original movie – which is resurfacing to help promote a direct-to-video sequel – had lit a fire under someone to release the original soundtrack on CD. Selections from the WarGames score were made available about ten years ago on a composer promo CD, The Film Music Of Arthur B. Rubenstein, but that selection amounted to barely half an hour of music. The fine folks at soundtrack specialty label Intrada have dug up the complete original score, remastered it, and made it available at last.

My first thought upon listening to it, however, was that as fond as I was of the movie, I didn’t remember its music being this good. Rubenstein’s score is just sheer genius in how it establishes and then uses motifs and themes for the movie’s characters and ideas. WarGames truly is one of the best film scores of the 1980s. And it’s definitely a creature of the ’80s too, with a couple of new-wave-esque songs anchoring the early themes in the movie. Done in a style slightly reminiscent of Lene Lovich, “Video Fever” and “History Lesson” roll out themes for Matthew Broderick’s character and his playful attempts to hack into the system. The melodies and other elements from those songs are then picked up by the orchestral score and used to great effect. And for source music pieces that are only ever fleetingly heard in the background, the songs are good listening in their own right.

Early in the score, light-hearted bubbly synths pick up the “Video Fever” theme, but as the story’s dramatic tension is ratcheted up, the synths disappear – until they re-emerge in an extremely sinister theme (actually an ominously minor-key variation on “History Lesson”) for the WOPR computer’s attempts to do some hacking of its own to find a launch code enabling it to launch America’s nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps the best-known piece of the score is one that was only heard at two points in the movie, on of them being the end credits. Rubenstein co-authored a third song, “Edge Of The World”, and tried recording it in a number of different format, including a female soloist and a female choir, before it finally all but vanished from the film, becoming the wistful harmonica-led end credit theme. The various tries at a definitive version of “Edge” with vocals are presented here at the end of the disc, offering an interesting look at music that didn’t make it into the movie. I have to say, though, that the end credit music is still my favorite iteration of “Edge”, and has stuck with me since I originally saw the movie in the theater.

4 out of 4Quite a few people have fond memories of this movie, but I’m not sure if it’s ever really sunk into the public consciousness how great the music from the movie is. Perhaps this long overdue soundtrack release will help to redress that balance.

Order this CD

  1. WarGames (3:41)
  2. Video Fever (2:23)
  3. Principal’s Office (1:51)
  4. A New Grade (2:09)
  5. The Game Begins (2:44)
  6. History Lesson (1:46)
  7. Home Movie (1:28)
  8. A Game Of Chess? (3:04)
  9. Nuclear Alert (2:59)
  10. Walk Thru NORAD (2:18)
  11. David Captured (3:55)
  12. David Searches (1:34)
  13. The Sneak (2:21)
  14. NORAD (0:58)
  15. It Could Be War (0:43)
  16. Confidence Is High (1:11)
  17. Off To See Faulken (1:09)
  18. WOPR (2:15)
  19. Maneuvers (1:38)
  20. Faulken’s House (1:55)
  21. Time’s Up (0:19)
  22. I Can’t Swim (1:31)
  23. David’s Concern (2:23)
  24. Helicopter Pursuit / Launch Detected (2:48)
  25. Closing The Mountain (1:52)
  26. Who’s First (2:08)
  27. Joshua! (2:38)
  28. It Might Be Real (0:59)
  29. Tic Tac Toe (1:35)
  30. Winner: None (1:47)
  31. End Credits (3:22)
  32. Edge Of The World – choral version (2:08)
  33. Winner: None – original version (1:47)
  34. Edge Of The World – vocals by Yvonne Ellman (1:52)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 69:11

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom – music by John Williams

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of DoomJohn Williams. Steven Spielberg. Two great tastes that taste great together. Ever since Williams worked on Spielberg’s first theatrical film, The Sugarland Express, the two have been nearly inseparable. So, again they pair up for Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Spielberg’s 8th film (and Williams’ 47th).

This soundtrack album starts off, interestingly enough, with a Mandarin rendition of the famous Cole Porter song, “Anything Goes” sung by the Kate Capshaw, the female lead of the film. This is from an early part of the film where our hero sees her for the first time. Later on, in “Fast Streets Of Shanghai”, Williams employs Oriental influences (as the name suggests) and a dramatic flair that Williams is well known of. Bits of the Indiana Jones theme carry throughout the piece.

On the track “The Temple Of Doom”, chanting is used to give the song a dark, ominous feel as we come across the temple for the first time. “Bug Tunnel And Death Trap” has brief moments of dissonance, underlining the horror of the place. Melodies reach higher and higher, creating a sense of anxiety and confusion. On the other hand, the track “Slave Children’s Crusade” is loud and majestic, with booming cymbals and a strong string section serving as the anchor of the piece.

An interesting thing to note is that John Williams often employs leitmotif in his scores. That is to say, he composes and assigns themes to certain characters or ideas in the films. For example, in the Star Wars series, he composed separate themes for the characters Princess Leia, Yoda and Darth Vader as well as others (although it is Darth Vader’s theme that everyone usually thinks of). On this album, Williams downplays that aspect a bit. Even though the character Short Round has a theme, most of the music is incidental music and not specifically tied to a character. Even Indiana Jones’ own recognizable theme doesn’t make a full appearance until the finale. In my opinion, not having a “stand-out” piece detracts from the work as a whole.

3 out of 4The soundtrack carries a dramatic feel. One of the recognizable strengths of John Williams is that he very much as a unique styling in his music. You can listen to a piece by Williams and immediately sense that, even if you don’t know explicitly that it is Williams’ work, you know at least it’s meant for a film or a similar endeavor. Overall, a fine score that stands up well on its own apart from the movie.

Order this CD

  1. Anything Goes (2:51)
  2. Fast Streets Of Shanghai (3:44)
  3. Nocturnal Activities (6:01)
  4. Short Round’s Theme (2:32)
  5. Children In Chains (2:44)
  6. Slalom On Mt. Humol (2:26)
  7. The Temple Of Doom (3:00)
  8. Bug Tunnel And Death Trap (3:33)
  9. Slave Children’s Crusade (3:29)
  10. The Mine Car Chase (3:42)
  11. Finale And End Credits (6:27)

Released by: Polydor
Release date: 1984
Total running time: 40:29

Wendy Carlos – Digital Moonscapes

Wendy Carlos - Digital MoonscapesHaving given her new studio its shakedown cruise during the recording
sessions for the score of Disney’s inscrutably futuristic 1982 movie Tron, composer Wendy Carlos turned to a new challenge – recording a new series of compositions, directly from digital synthesizers with no samples, microphones or any other acoustic recording techniques, fine-tuned until it souded not completely unlike a new piece for orchestra. Jokingly attributing the sounds to the “LSI Philharmonic” (for the large-scale intregrated chips in her new digital synths and recording gear), Carlos created what was almost a modern-day companion piece to Holst’s The Planets, inspired by the then-recent pictures sent back from Jupiter and Saturn by NASA’s Voyager space probes.

Given that my interest in Carlos’ work started with Tron, I’m almost embarrassed to make the comparison, but it must be made – Digital Moonscapes, recorded immediately after the score from that movie, does indeed sound like it could be music from a lost Tron sequel. (And careful listening makes this similarity more than just a coincidence: the piece devoted to Jupiter’s restless volcanic moon Io is actually a rejected cue for Tron‘s light cycle sequence; listening to “Io” side by side with “Light Cycles” from the second volume of Carlos’ Rediscovering Lost Scores reveals the two pieces to be one and the same.) As much as I hate to fall back on a banal comparison, if you liked the music from Tron, Digital Moonscapes is right up your alley.

Trying to get away from that comparison for a moment, Digital Moonscapes is interesting on its own, in some places a little more conventionally classical than that movie soundtrack I keep comparing it to. The other comparison I’ve made, to Holst, deals only with the subject matter. Nowhere in her own liner notes does Wendy Carlos try to draw that comparison, and we’re talking about two completely different kinds of music. As much effort as was put into making Digital Moonscapes sound fully orchestral, there’s no mistaking it for anything but synthesizer music, and ’80s synthesizer music at that. This CD release postdates the original LP by nearly 20 years, though I have an enormous amount of respect for the decision to not tweak the original recordings with more modern technology, because it has a unique character all its own (though I’m a little selfishly disappointed that the thought didn’t occur to add new Rating: 3 out of 4material to accompany Voyager 2’s discoveries at Uranus and Neptune). In tracks such as “Titan”, “Europa”, and portions of the three-part “Cosmological Impressions” suite, Carlos comes dangerously close to achieving that orchestral sound.

It’ll never shake its distinctly ’80s sound, but in some ways, that’s the charm of Digital Moonscapes, and that’s enough to get a recommendation from me.

    Order this CD in the StoreCosmological Impressions

  1. Genesis (7:12)
  2. Eden (4:30)
  3. I.C. (Intergalactic Communications) (3:41)

    Moonscapes

  4. Luna (8:20)
  5. Phobos and Deimos (3:28)
  6. Ganymede (4:25)
  7. Europa (4:19)
  8. Io (4:26)
  9. Callisto (4:29)
  10. Rhea (1:51)
  11. Titan (3:46)
  12. Iapetus (5:50)

Released by: East Side Digital
Release date: 1984 (re-released on CD in 2003)
Total running time: 47:31